Western Sydney NRL powerhouses Parramatta, Penrith, Canterbury and Wests Tigers have opted not to apply for a licence for a women's team this year.
The NRL faces the prospect of starting its inaugural women's league without a team in its traditional heartland with all four western Sydney clubs declining to apply for a licence.
NRL clubs had until close of business on Friday to officially stake a claim for one of at least six licences on offer for the proposed competition later this year.
However despite most clubs showing initial interest in December, Canterbury, Wests Tigers, Parramatta and Penrith are among seven teams to pull out of the running.
St George Illawarra, Cronulla, the Sydney Roosters, Brisbane and South Sydney were the only clubs to declare they would be formally expressing their interest.
It was uncertain whether the Warriors or Newcastle would make a submission.
Manly, Canterbury, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Canberra opted to hold off at least until the following season, citing monetary restrictions and a lack of time to prepare a squad.
It is believed it would cost clubs about $500,000 to field a team, which includes a licencing fee and match payments for players.
Despite the hesitation from its western Sydney powerhouses, though, the NRL is keen to press on with its competition plans.
"The level of interest in the women's competition has been positive from fans and clubs alike," an NRL spokesperson told AAP.
"We will be discussing all submissions with clubs and will make an announcement on the competition structure in due course."
It is understood the short-term league will be staged in the lead-up to the men's finals series, culminating in a decider to be played before the men's grand final in October.
The move comes as interest continues to mount in the women's game following the success of the Rugby League World Cup and State of Origin.
The Dragons said they were always keen on joining the first national women's league.
"We have a strong history and association with the development of women's rugby league across our region, particularly in the Illawarra, where we established pathways and competitions in 2001," the Dragons said in a statement.
"The NRL has indicated that there will be only six licences available initially for a five-year period and as a club, we are presently in the process of developing our submission to be included in this competition."